City, News, Politics

Bostonians toke up in defense of marijuana usage

Bostonians gather for the 22nd Annual Boston Freedom Rally, or "Hempfest," at the Boston Common Saturday. STACEY RUPOLO/DFP Staff

Thousands of pro-marijuana Bostonians attended the 22nd annual Freedom Rally, commonly known as “Hempfest,” on the Boston Common Saturday afternoon to listen to live music and protest for federal legalization of marijuana.

Since cannabis was decriminalized in Massachusetts in 2008, making it illegal to arrest anyone carrying up to one ounce of marijuana, Hempfest has served both as a celebration and a rally against federal prohibition of the plant.

This year, the Common hosted 21 musical acts and booths of organizations such as the Mass. Cannabis Reform Coalition, Mass. Libertarians and Water Pipes by Vortex.

“Be brave patients and patriots and fight for the return of our freedom to choose cannabis. It’s not easy, but achieving freedom never is,” wrote D.J. Stone, editor of the magazine “1000 Watts,” in a special edition about Hempfest that was handed out at the rally.

As attendees smoked marijuana during the five-hour festival, Boston Police monitored the Common.

“We’re here to ensure public safety for the crowd,” Boston Police Deputy Superintendent Kelly Nee said in an interview. “Historically, we’ve never had a lot of problems.”

Police officials and state troopers did not attempt to fine anyone who was smoking on the Common, but some pro-marijuana advocates said they still resented seeing law enforcement.

One such protestor, who identified himself as Mike D., held up a sign stating, “Political Criminals/Police are Outlaws.”

“They don’t know what our rights are,” he said in reference to the crowd at Hempfest. “Marijuana is arbitrarily classified as a drug. I’m sure the government’s got a watchful eye on me.”

Steven Epstein, founder of the Mass. Cannabis Reform Coalition, an organization that promotes cannabis as an ecological, recreational, spiritual and medical tool, said he is also working to repeal prohibition of marijuana.

“We want to raise money and awareness,” Epstein said. “Most people are here to enjoy the sunshine and look at pretty women.”

Some people said they were not as optimistic about federal legalization of marijuana.

“I’m split on it,” said Boston resident Daniel Burkhart. “Decriminalization is good, but I don’t know if it’s a good thing to completely legalize it.”

Mustufa Taj, a project manager for a local bank, stopped by Hempfest with his parents because he said they had never seen a congregation like it before.

“I’m for legal marijuana as long as it’s controlled in some shape or form,” Taj said. “It’s being done peacefully here, with the right imagery, in the right way.”

Adding to the crowd of pro-marijuana supporters and passersby, volunteers campaigned for presidential candidates, notably Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas. As a supporter of restricted government, Paul introduced a bill to Congress in June cosigned by Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., which would repeal federal prohibition of marijuana.

Shem Kellogg said he decided to campaign for Paul at Hempfest because Paul is an honest man who people can relate to.

“[Paul] opposes the drug war, folks here oppose the drug war,” Kellogg said. “Most are left-leaning, registered Democrats, but President Obama started a few wars and supported the banker bailout.”

Joseph Morgan, a volunteer for the Paul campaign, also attended Hempfest in an effort to sway people to vote for Paul.

“An event like this is where Paul would fit in,” Morgan said. “He has always been about personal responsibility and government out of peoples’ lives.”

But ultimately, Epstein said Hempfest was an occasion for people to have fun.

“It’s a party,” Epstein said. “It’s the biggest party around since the Grateful Dead.”

8 Comments

  1. You spelled the photographer’s name wrong.

  2. While I respect Ron Paul for being principled, let’s not get carried away. “Obama started a few wars”? We’re in the middle of three right now, and he inherited two of them. One (Afghanistan) Obama has ill-advisedly embraced long past its expiration date, sure. The other (Iraq), he’s taken pains to de-escalate. Now, bin Laden started the first, and Bush started the second — and theoretically Ron Paul is hoping to win the nomination by courting voters who, let’s be frank, voted for Bush twice and mayhap later regretted it to varying degrees. Anyway, so we’re left with Libya. Who started that one? Kaddhafi! While other despots in the region were content to sic riot police on protestors, the Colonel upped the ante by **bombing them from warplanes**. Bad as he was, Saddam Hussein wasn’t actively dropping bombs on his own people at the moment Bush chose to invade Iraq. So the U.S. and the other NATO nations intervened with airstrikes, giving the Libyan military a taste of its own medicine. Not an American boot has touched the ground. If John McCain had won in ’08, he’d have done the same thing, and the right-wing media machine would be talking up his muscular heroism. But when the commander-in-chief has a (D) after his name, the new party-first/America-second GOP attack squad spouts this BS about Obama “starting” wars, plural. They all voted for Bush in the general election and hardly batted an eye when he ballooned the deficit. Now all they care about is the deficit all of a sudden. Hypocrites.

    • see post below

    • Paddy – I think you’re missing a few wars there.
      Even though most of the current wars aren’t constitutional (because they aren’t declared by Congress) we are currently dropping bombs and lobbing Tomahawks (at $650k a pop) at Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. 🙂 And don’t forget about our internal “War on Drugs” being waged by the DEA, and the “War on the 2nd Amendment” being waged by Holder and the BATFE, both of which are also unconstitutional.
      As the commander in chief, Obama has the ability to bring home the troops TOMORROW, which is exactly what Ron Paul will do when he’s elected. So it’s disengenuous for you to talk about Obama “inheriting” anything. He could have stopped Iraq and Afghanistan over the last 2.5 year, he just chose not to. And let’s face it – does anyone believe it was a good idea for us to get involved in Libya when we didn’t even know the intentions of the rebels? Who’s to say they aren’t worse than Khadafi?

      Just FYI – I was registered “Independent” before I “became” a Republican to support Ron Paul – the only reason I am an “R” is because there is no way the best man for the job (Ron Paul) can possibly win the presidency without being a member of one of the two major parties, because the system is broken. You can say that some of our problems were inherited from Bush, and some were created by Obama (or even go back further if you want) but I honestly think they all were just establishment politicians and there really isn’t much difference between them on the important issues. So name call away on Bush – I didn’t like him either. The path forward, if you really want to fix this country, is to elect someone who is NOT a part of the establishment – someone who knows what the country needs to come back from the brink – and that person is Ron Paul. The only way to vote is to research the candidates and see who has the best voting history – that is the best way to determine what a politician will do once they get into office. If you look at Ron Paul’s record, it’s 100% consistent, which NONE of the other candidates (democrat or republican) can say. So despite what the media and the establishment want to tell you, there is really only one candidate who is “electable”, and that’s Ron Paul.

  3. i meant the US drone / cruise missle attacks that obama has authorized in

    somalia http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jun/30/us-drone-strikes-somalia
    pakistan http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jul/12/us-drones-pakistan
    yemen http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/meast/07/15/yemen.drone.strike/

    and i’m not gonna defend mccain and i didn’t vote for him. wasn’t handing out literature for the GOP

  4. Paddy, you’re mistaken in several regards. The US does have boots on the ground in Libya. It has been reported. Feel free to look it up. Our government does not have the right to engage in military actions without the approval of congress. To do so is illegal and thus makes the war, or kinetic military action, whatever they would like to spin it as, illegal as well. There are significant number of people who don’t fit the leftist-rightist, cheer for the letter next to the name, stereotype that you’ve typecast protesters of Obama into. I can speak to that personally, as I am against all three deployments of our military force in the past decades as well as the administrations that have issued them. We are surely not in Libya due to the Colonel “bombing” his people. If that were the case there are dozens of other nations we could be intervening in such as Sudan and the Ivory Coast. Do not allow yourself to be fooled. We are in Libya because of gold and oil. Afghanistan (Opium agriculture and Lithium mines). Iraq (Oil). We use conveniently contrived excuses and pretexts to enter these nations and set up military installations to ensure we’re able to continues plundering these profitable goods. No wonder we’re globally despised. In countries that have no natural resources that appeal to global elitists, they’re content to allow bloodbaths to continue unimpeded. You are correct however in the assessment of “party-first” politics, because this is how both parties operate. Unfortunately for us they have a continuity of agenda between them as we’ve seen in the transfer from Bush to Obama and as long as we keep allowing establishment backed candidates to take office, our country will continue it’s downward spiral.

  5. Pingback: Boston Rallys For Marijuana Legalization | The Puffington Host

  6. What date is the rally for 2012??